Samuel Hawley was born and grew up in South Korea, the son of missionary parents. After earning BA and MA degrees in history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, he returned to East Asia with his wife to work as a teacher for nearly two decades, first in Japan and then Korea, ending in 2007 as an associate professor of English at Yonsei University in Seoul. He additionally served for three years as head of Yonsei’s 3,000-student Communicative English Department, and as publications chairman and editor for the Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch. He continues to serve as general editor of the Society’s annual journal Transactions, the oldest Korean studies journal in the world, published since 1900.
It was in Japan in the early 1990s that Samuel started writing for magazines and newspapers on topics ranging from Japanese fashion and international travel to the world of sumo wrestling, daimyo clocks and fishing at urban tsuribori. By the late ‘90s he had turned his attention to books. His most notable work from this period is The Imjin War (co-published by the Royal Asiatic Society, Seoul and the Insitute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley, 2005) the most comprehensive account in English of Japan’s sixteenth-century invasion of Korea and attempted conquest of China, an event of seismic importance in the history of East Asia. He next focused on US Navy ensign and American diplomat George C. Foulk, Washington’s representative in Seoul at the time of Korea’s opening to the West. Foulk, one of the first Westerners to learn to speak Korean and to travel extensively in the country, was perhaps the foremost Western expert at the time on the “Hermit Kingdom." Hawley's interest in Foulk resulted in two books, America's Man in Korea, and Inside the Hermit Kingdom (both Lexington Books, 2007).